To borrow a phrase from LL Cool J, don’t call it a comeback. Jeffrey Gaines has been here for years, playing his music, writing songs, and doing what he loves. The only thing missing over the last 15 years was an album.
“I love playing, first and foremost,” said the Harrisburg native. “That’s my first experience with it, even before I had the notion that I could be making albums and recording. You get a band and that’s your joy, that’s what you love doing. If the rug slips out from under you, it’s like I still got what I love. So playing live was what I was doing and just loving that. But people were definitely tapping me on the shoulder, saying, ‘It would probably be a good idea to put out an album.’”
He laughs, especially when it’s pointed out that he must have a strong pair of shoulders to withstand all that tapping from people asking him when he was going to follow up 2003’s Toward the Sun. But the way he saw it, if there wasn’t going to be a label behind him to make an album happen, he was just fine hitting the road and playing.
“Did something dry up?” he said. “The people who were funding these things, that dried up. But my interest and my love for it, my creativity, did not. And my skill set, you’re trying to get better and stronger all the time and you’re honing your instrument.”
The idea of a new album was always the 800-pound gorilla in the room for everyone except Gaines, with fans even getting into the act and asking him for what would eventually come the album Alright. He said if they had a studio, he’d be there, only partly tongue in cheek. Yet when he played SXSW, industry insiders who hadn’t seen him for years all of a sudden were intrigued to have him back.
“You’re still you. Where have you been? You should probably be recording,” he said of the responses he was getting.
“I should. Let’s do it.”
And when Omnivore Recordings got on board, Gaines hit the studio with producer Chris Price in Los Angeles.
“I’m very fortunate that everything lined up the way it did,” he said. “It was so random and perfect.”
Just like that, Jeffrey Gaines is back, and he’s in prime form, despite saying that, “I’ve got some catching up to do.”
Maybe in terms of getting back into the whole album-tour grind, but when it comes to his songwriting and singing, that’s been like riding a bike, and his fans agree that it’s great to have Mr. Gaines around the recording world again.
“It’s really nice knowing that I was missed and I just hope that when they hear it, they feel the same,” he said. “I love it a lot, I’m very proud of it, it’s a great record, and I had a great time making a great record with great people. I hope it works out. It’s hard for me to tell. You get used to yourself, but from what I’ve been hearing, a lot of people are really enjoying it, and are pretty excited about it.”
If Gaines sounds like someone who’s been around the block a time or two and isn’t sitting by his computer praying for positive reviews, that’s accurate. Sure, everybody loves to be loved, but the way he sees it, once the hay’s in the barn, everything else is out of his control.
“We made our peace with it by the time we left the studio,” he said. “There’s not much you can do. Focus on the good, focus on the people that are gonna like it. Keep the nervous out of it.”
Well, that should be easy, because with Alright, Gaines delivers what he always has: heartfelt tunes that everyone can relate to.
“I think that’s what you want to have happen, for people to take possession of the songs and make them theirs,” he said. “And the themes are universal — the experiences and the quests and the stuff we’re seeking are pretty similar, no matter how much we think we’re completely different. Ultimately, I’m breaking things down to the core elements that we’re all in search of.”
Jeffrey Gaines plays Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3 in NYC on Saturday, February 3. For information, click here
For more information on Jeffrey Gaines, click here